Thank You for the Holiday

On April 3, 2011 · 3 Comments

Maybe you’ve seen the charity advertisements that tell you for the price of a cup of coffee per day you can save the planet, or some such claim? Apparently for the price of a cup of coffee per day one can also get a Caribbean vacation but it takes about four years. I am traveling to Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten this week and I have the extended Twelve Mile Circle family to thank for that privilege.

International Boundary between St. Martin and Sint Maarten
SOURCE: CIA World Fact Book

No, I didn’t get some all expense paid opportunity from an international tourism council to blog about their wonderful locale. I wish! 12MC doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of traffic. Rather it’s due to all the silly little advertisements on the website that just a tiny handful of people click each day. I’m bewildered, frankly. Who does that? I mentally tune them out whenever I go to a website as my eyes draw directly to the genuine content of interest. The regular 12MC audience seems to do the same as I’ve observed from the website statistics, so maybe I should be thanking all the one-time visitors who land on my bizarrely popular ferry webpages instead? They’re the ones who are clicking the ads.

I know that advertisements on personal blogs is a controversial topic. Many authors take pride in presenting
free content as a matter of principal. Others don’t have a moral objection but consider it tacky or cluttering. My only reasoning originally was to cover web hosting expenses. It’s now doing a bit better than that. I figure that if it provides me with a vacation once every four years then the least I can do is reinvest the funds into a location that’s rich in geo-oddities. Yes, that’s how I’ll justify it. I’m not on holiday: I’m conducting extensive first-hand field research on topics of great interest to the odd geography community. Aren’t I magnanimous?

Seriously, that’s how I chose St. Martin (and I’ll use the French spelling because I’ll be spending most of my time on that side). My wife has been very kind over the years, allowing me to drag her to every manner of obscure border marker, confluence point, portions of states on the "wrong" sides of rivers, and whatnot. The least I can do is indulge her choice this time, but I faced a conundrum because I’m not a beach person. It had to be a place where I could explore a terrain with unusual features.

View Larger Map

That’s how we decided on St. Martin, or more properly how I steered the discussion towards St. Martin. It has all of the nice beaches and turquoise waters, but it also has an international border running directly through it. I covered the situation on 12MC back in its early days. I described the island as the smallest internationally-divided landmass on the plant. People were kind enough to point out that it’s more properly the smallest inhabited locale. The Skerry of Märket, an island split between Sweden and Finland near Åland, is considerably smaller but it been uninhabited since 1979 when the lighthouse switched to an automated mode.

The other major change since that original blog entry is that St. Maarten is no longer part of the Netherlands Antilles due to its dissolution in late 2010. I believe it’s become an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands along with Curaçao. They followed a trail blazed earlier by Aruba.

My wife faces a curious situation although she doesn’t seem to be facing an existential crises even though I’ve brought it to her attention. She wasn’t fortunate enough to inherit the geo-curious gene. Thus far in her lifetime of extensive travel she has somehow managed to get very close to the French border a number of times but never cross it. Recalling our recent discussions (I’ve Barely Been There and It Counts but It’s Pitiful), can she says she’s been to France once she reaches St. Martin?

I’m inclined to say not. It’s one of the French overseas collectivities so it would be like a Japanese tourist visiting the territory of Guam, to put it in US terms. I’d have a different thought it we were going to Guadeloupe or Martinique which are overseas départements with the same political status as départements on mainland France. To use the Japanese tourist analogy again, that would be similar to him visiting the state of Hawaii. Anyone else have thoughts or dissenting opinions?

I’ll provide my skewed interpretation of St. Martin in the next couple of posts. It’s going to be more travelogue than usual. If that’s not your thing you can wait a week and I’ll return to the standard fare you’ve come to expect. I won’t be offended.

Oh, and a big thank you to grandma and grandpa for allowing my wife and I to have our first kid-free holiday in ten years.

On April 3, 2011 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Thank You for the Holiday”

  1. Greg says:

    Is there a practical difference between being in St. Martin and being in, say, Martinique? If both speak mainly French, use the Euro, are subject to French law, etc., I’d say you can call it France. If your experience as a visitor is fairly different between the two, then maybe not.

  2. Chris says:

    I second Greg; besides, on crossing the border from the UK (well, Anguilla 😉 ) to Marigot, one gets a passport stamp with “Police Nationale–Guadeloupe”. And that’s the French national police, too–same force, same uniforms, etc, as Paris. [Schengen provides a different stamp format, of course, but that’s not the issue here 😉 ] When you consider that St. Martin is directly represented in the French parliament [analogous to Hawaii, not Guam], I think it definitely counts!

  3. Fritz Keppler says:

    I follow the same criteria in entering a piece of land claimed by or belonging to a larger nation. I count Gibraltar and would count Bermuda and similar crown colonies and overseas territories of Great Britain separately, noting that they are part of the larger entity. I would include Midway Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and other territories of the US in a similar manner. However, when I took the boat to St Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland, I considered myself to have entered French territorial waters and to have been in France during that time, since the islands are represented in the French Senate and House of Deputies.

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